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Worry-prone individuals have less residual working memory capacity during worry compared to low-worriers (Hayes, Hirsch, & Mathews, 2008). People typically worry in verbal form, and the present study investigated whether verbal worry depletes working memory capacity more than worry in imagery-based form. High and low-worriers performed a working memory task, random interval generation, whilst thinking about a worry in verbal or imagery form. High (but not low) worriers had less available working memory capacity when worrying in verbal compared to imagery-based form. The findings could not be accounted for by general attentional control, amount of negatively-valenced thought, or appraisals participants made about worry topics. The findings indicate that the verbal nature of worry is implicated in the depletion of working memory resources during worry among high-worriers, and point to the potential value of imagery-based techniques in cognitive-behavioural treatments for problematic worry.

Original publication




Journal article


Behav Res Ther

Publication Date





99 - 105


Adult, Analysis of Variance, Anxiety, Attention, Female, Humans, Imagination, Male, Memory, Short-Term, Personality, Surveys and Questionnaires, Thinking